Safe Sanctuary Program: Policy and Procedures for the Protection of Children and Youth
St. Paul 's United Methodist Church welcomes everyone and is committed to helping individuals and families grow in faith. St. Paul's recognizes that Christian service is a necessary and fulfilling part of each person's faith journey and offers many different ministry opportunities. Among these are opportunities to serve with the children and youth of St. Paul 's. As much as possible, we want everyone who feels called to be able to serve in ministry with our children and youth.
We also recognize that the church is not immune from the painful reality of child abuse. We understand the devastating damage done to a child's growth when abused within a church setting. As a church, we must take intentional measures to protect our children.
This policy is designed to provide safety and openness: to provide protection for our children while maintaining an atmosphere that welcomes all seekers. By providing many avenues of service with varying levels of supervisory responsibilities and screening requirements, we are striving to meet the spiritual needs of all congregational members. By developing and implementing safety procedures and precautions, we are trying to ensure that the spiritual growth and development of our children is not disrupted by the preventable evil of child abuse.
• Establishes a procedure for reducing the risk of child abuse which is consistent with scripture, the Social principles of the United Methodist Church and civil law;
• Establishes minimum guidelines for educating our members and staff about child abuse through training;
• Establishes a procedure for reporting and responding to allegations of abuse
• Does everything reasonable to assure a caring, loving, open environment where everyone can worship, study, serve, and continue his/her spiritual journey.
This comprehensive plan presents procedures for Screening, Supervision, and Response.
These procedures are the minimum necessary precautions for protecting children. St. Paul 's UMC will endeavor to monitor updates and recommendations by the General Conference of the United Methodist Church and may modify these procedures.
"Adult": a person 18 years of age or older or out of high school.
"Child": any person under the age of 18 or still in high school (it is important to note that this includes those persons who are normally designated as "Youth" at St. Paul 's UMC).
"Staff Person": any person employed by the St. Paul 's UMC.
"The Two-Adult Rule": a standard that requires that at any Children's Activity there will be at least two UNRELATED adults present. Two related people may serve together, but a third person should be present as well. This may include the presence of an adult "roamer" who moves in and out of rooms.
"Children's Activity": any activity or program sponsored by St. Paul 's UMC in which children are under the supervision of staff persons or volunteers. (It is important to note that this includes those activities that are normally designated as "Youth Activities" at St. Paul 's UMC.)
"Children's Activity Coordinator": any person who coordinates a children's activity. This person has regular and direct contact with children and is counted in the Two-Adult rule.
"Mentor": any adult who assists in conducting children's activities under the supervision of a Staff Person or Children's Activity Coordinator, has regular and direct contact with children and is counted in the Two-Adult rule.
"Resource/Support Person": anyone who aids in ministry in a non-supervisory capacity including a youth aged 14-18. This person is not counted in the Two-Adult rule unless a Staff Person, Children's Activity Coordinator or Mentor is present or the person has completed the full screening procedure.
"Visitor": A parent or guardian who accompanies a child participating in a children's program or other person approved by the Children's Activity Coordinator. A visitor is not counted in the Two-Adult rule.
"We": St. Paul 's United Methodist Church .
"Child abuse": as defined under Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law means any of the following:
"(I) Any recent act or failure to act by a perpetrator which causes non-accidental serious physical injury to a child under 18 years of age.
(ii) Any act or failure to act by a perpetrator which causes non-accidental serious mental injury to or sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a child under 18 years of age.
(iii) Any recent act, failure to act or series of acts or failures to act by a perpetrator which creates an imminent risk of serious physical injury to or sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a child under 18 years of age.
(iv) Serious physical neglect by a perpetrator constituting prolonged or repeated lack of supervision or the failure to provide essentials of life, including adequate medical care, which endangers a child's life or development or impairs the child's functioning.
No child shall be deemed to be physically or mentally abused based on injuries that result solely from environmental factors that are beyond the control of the parent or person responsible for the child's welfare, such as inadequate housing, furnishings, income, clothing, and medical care.
"Crisis Management Team": a group of individuals to include the Pastors, legal counsel, medical, psychological or counseling representative and others as deemed necessary. This group shall be a standing group appointed by Pastor-In-Charge.
Careful screening is one way to reduce the abuse of children. We recognize that screening of children's workers is a morally complex and controversial issue. St. Paul 's UMC has chosen to require screening of children's workers who are:
• Children's Activity Coordinators: supervisors who have significant control over how programs are run
• Mentors: positions that require extensive contact with the same children
• Volunteers participating in "high risk" activities (For example, chaperoning overnight events).
The staff person in charge of the ministry will provide a list of positions that require screening. The decision to screen is based on criteria inherent to the position and is not based on the personal qualities of the volunteer. In all cases, screening must be accompanied by careful application of safe operating procedures.
All persons, including visitors, who have direct and indirect contact with children, shall be required to provide:
• Standard contact information
All staff persons and all persons in a Mentor role as well as the Children's Activity Coordinator will be required to complete an application that includes:
• Statement of personal beliefs, gifts and talents.
• Listing of 3 non-related references. This list shall have complete contact information for all references.
• A ChildLine Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance certificate dated within the last 5 years.
• Information to procure a Child Abuse History Clearance, including:
• Waiver of confidentiality allowing St. Paul 's UMC to secure background checks necessary
• A completed PA Child Abuse History Clearance Form (CY 113 3/95) (If person has resided in PA for less than 5 years, a national FBI clearance will be required.).
• A completed PA Request for Criminal Record Check (SP 4-641/97)
Although not required in order to serve, we also encourage support/resource persons to complete the screening process.
Parents and guardians are always welcome to accompany their children in all children's activities. These persons will be considered "visitors".
Persons with pending Criminal/Child Abuse Clearance applications may serve in Children's Activities when a cleared, non-related adult is present.
An applicant must maintain an active relationship with St. Paul 's UMC of at least six months before serving as a Children's Activity Coordinator or Mentor with children.
We reserve the option to repeat background checks of persons after 5 or more years of service or a break in service of more than one year.
The Pastor-In-Charge or his/her designee is responsible for reviewing and following up on each criminal and child abuse clearance. These forms will be maintained in a locked file. The Pastor-In-Charge must have approval from the District Superintendent of the State College District of the Central Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church before disallowing any person to work with children. The clearance form of the disallowed person must then be provided to the District Superintendent for retention.
All other application materials and references will be maintained by the Staff person in charge of that ministry.
The second step to providing a holy place of safety for children is conscientious and intentional supervision. These procedures are designed to reduce the possibility of abuse to children and to protect persons from unwarranted accusations. These are minimum standards. Each Children's Activity may adopt more stringent standards as necessary.
• Training is a requirement for all staff persons and volunteers working with children in Children's Activities. The minimum training would be an annual orientation that includes information about this policy, procedures for supervision, as well as information on how to identify and report child abuse.
• Minimum supervisory standards include the "Two-Adult Rule." The "Two-Adult Rule" standard not only helps provide a safe and loving environment for the children, it also provides volunteers with more encouragement, creativity, and flexibility.
• No person shall serve as a Children's Activity Coordinator or a Mentor unless he or she is at least 18 years old and at least 3 years older than the children they will be supervising.
• Each room or space where children are being cared for shall have a window in the door or the door shall be left open. All Children's Activities should occur in open view. If the Children's Activity is an outdoor program or in a setting which makes it difficult to comply with this Policy, the staff person in charge of the activity shall take appropriate measures to make sure the setting suits the activity and the children are properly supervised.
Once an incident of child abuse occurs or an allegation is made, it is crucial that it be dealt with speedily and in a clearly outlined manner. The person who observes alleged abuse or to whom such abuse is reported shall report the incident immediately to the staff person in charge of the children's activity. The staff person in charge of the children's activity in which the alleged abuse was observed or disclosed shall obtain necessary information such as the name of the alleged victim and his/her address and family information.
If the allegation is against a St. Paul 's UMC staff person or volunteer or if it occurred in the course of a St. Paul 's UMC children's activity, the staff person in charge of the children's activity will contact the Pastors who will mobilize the Crisis Management Team. The Crisis Management Team will then make the initial contact with the Pennsylvania Childline & Abuse Registry (1-800-932-0313). The staff person will also contact the Child's guardian(s) immediately and an in-person meeting arranged as soon as practical. (A 24-hour time frame suggested for reporting).
If the allegation concerns activities or persons outside any relationship to a St. Paul 's UMC related event or activity, the staff person will contact the pastors who will mobilize the Crisis Management Team. The Crisis Management team will then make the initial contact with the Pennsylvania Childline & Abuse Registry (1-800-932-0313). An example of this would be a child telling a teacher about abuse by a relative during the prior year. (24 hour maximum time frame suggested for reporting)
Persons who are the objects of the report shall refrain from all Children's Activities until the incident report is resolved. Pastors will take responsibility for informing the person they are to be removed from Children's Activities and inform them of steps to be taken in the investigation. In any removal of a person from any Children's Activities, care should be taken to handle this in a discreet manner, recognizing that an investigation is still being conducted.
A quick, compassionate and unified response to an alleged incident of child abuse is expected. All allegations will be taken seriously. In all cases of reported or observed abuse in a Children's Activity, the entire staff of that activity shall be at the service of all official investigating agencies.
Only Central Pennsylvania Conference personnel will be permitted to talk to the media.
For further information in regard to the Safe Sanctuary program, please contact:
David D. Flick, Safe Sanctuary Administrator, 814-861-3223.